A Tree Grows in Pilsen

Gabriela Torres is Chicago Youth Centers’ (CYC) Sid and Sondra Epstein Believe in Kids Scholarship recipient and is paving a “green” path to success. “As a child looking out of my small bedroom window, there was a villain I could not stop. I felt as if I could see its dark cape swooping over my neighborhood with no regard. This cape still lingers over the neighborhood and obscures the beauty of local parks, museums and churches,” Gabriela Torres writes in her scholarship essay, and her community’s antagonist can’t remain much longer. That is because Ms. Torres is determined to defeat him by achieving her goal of becoming an environmental scientist, ensuring communities’ safe ecosystems, particularly in underserved urban areas, which are more prone to environmental hazards.

Her unwavering conviction to lead an environmental care initiative to eliminate permeating smog and waste in her community of Pilsen is just one of the very many reasons CYC has named Ms. Torres the 2013 Sid and Sondra Epstein Believe in KidsScholarship recipient. Each year, CYC awards the $5,000 college scholarship to a Chicago high school senior to be applied to the tuition of his or her selected college. The recipient demonstrates strong leadership characteristics, personal integrity and commitment to community service and serves as a role model for younger children. In addition, he or she holds a high school GPA of 3.2/4.0 or higher, serves on teen councils and actively mentors in CYC programs.

Ms. Torres was recognized and presented the award at CYC’s Believe in Kids Annual Dinner on May 2. Having recently graduated from Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, one of the seven locations at which CYC implements its 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, she is attending Loras College this fall.

In her essay’s conclusion, Ms. Torres states, “This villain that has terrorized many communities will soon be stopped as I will take all that I learn from my education and experiences and apply it to all those innocent communities like mine.”